The Phoenix Suns (2-3) continued their mastery of the Golden State Warriors today, winning in impressive fashion and finally breaking the 100 point barrier, 102-91. Steve Nash looked like his old self with 21 points and 9 assists on 9-13 shooting, and rookie Markieff Morris again provided a huge lift off the bench with 16 points, 9 rebounds and a whopping +20 when he was on the floor.
The Warriors (2-3) were led by Monta Ellis, who distributed the ball about as effectively as you'll see him distribute. He scored 18 points on only 6-16 shooting, but dished 11 assists as Stephen Curry struggled with foul trouble to total only 10 points in 23 minutes of play. David Lee didn't play for the Warriors due to illness, but Dominic McGuire filled in with 14 points and 9 rebounds, and Kwame Brown chipped in 9 and 7.
This is the kind of win the Suns need to consistently get this season if they want to make a run at a playoff spot. The Warriors are marginally improved this year, but playing them at home when one of their key starters is out is a situation in which the Suns need to take care of business, and today they did exactly that.
Nash and Morris carried the load, and the Suns killed the Warriors on the boards, 49-36. With five scorers in double figures and a 100+ point outing, this finally looks like the Suns team we're all hoping for.
Jump it for more on the Suns second win of the year!
Early on, it looked like more of the same for the Suns. The Warriors led 26-25 after the first quarter, outshooting the Suns 67% to 35% from the field as the Suns went 0-6 from 3. All that kept the Suns in the game was drawing fouls by aggressively attacking the basket (and some sloppy reaching and grabbing from the Warriors) and winning the rebounding battle.
The bench, led by Morris, again provided a lift in the second quarter. Shooting didn't improve much, but the Suns tightened up defensively and continued to win the battle down low to draw fouls and snag rebounds. The Suns won the quarter by 5, taking a 51-47 lead into halftime behind 11 points in 12 minutes from Morris and a 26-18 rebounding edge.
The lead evaporated quickly as the Suns took nearly 4 minutes to score a point to start the second half, and the Warriors had an 8-0 run to take a 55-51 lead. Markieff Morris to the rescue! Morris played a strong inside/outside game and has tremendous poise and confidence for a rookie, along with an excellent all-around game. Warriors commentators were impressed, noting how Morris looked like a veteran.
Morris hit a 3, and then the 3s began falling for the Suns. Dudley followed with one of his two 3-pointers and the Suns went on a 14-2 run to take a 70-61 lead before the Warriors clawed back again with an 8-2 run of their own to trim the Suns lead to 72-69 heading into the 4th.
Though Ellis played well for the Warriors, Curry and Dorell Wright did not, and their offense looked out of sorts at times. They made 50% of their FGs and 41% of their 3s, but also committed 17 turnovers. Sloppy Warriors play helped the Suns build a 81-69 lead with 9:27 remaining before rookie Klay Thompson made two 3-pointers to bring the Warriors to within 81-75.
Then Steve Nash happened. Nash, of course, has struggled with his shot so far this season but he got himself going with drives to the hoop and was able to finish. He ended up scoring 13 of his game-high 21 points in the 4th quarter and his lone converted 3-pointer of the game with 2:24 left essentially sealed the deal as the Suns took a 94-83 lead.
Sure, the Warriors aren't world beaters, and they're a team the Suns have owned, having not won at USAC since 2005. But with Nash looking like himself again, the team finally hitting some shots and Markieff Morris playing like an all-rookie team player, this was a satisfying win. Maybe that's also because it's the Suns first win of a game I covered, and it came against a team that plays 25 miles from my current home.
Now, let's build off of this win!
- Channing Frye continues to rebound effectively. He only hit 3-8 FGs and 1-3 3-pointers, but he gathered 10 rebounds in 26 minutes of play. Just because Morris is making a strong case to start doesn't mean Frye is bringing nothing to the table. Kudos to him for making a contribution when his outside shot is not yet "juicy". The shot will come around.
- Watching Shannon Brown play offense can be painful. He sometimes grinds ball movement to a halt or chucks up random bad shots. But he does bring energy and athleticism, and had 5 rebounds and 2 assists to go with some strong defense and 2 made 3-pointers in scoring 10 points today.
- It's usually a disadvantage to be forced to hear the opposing team's announcers, but it was actually great today. It provided insight hearing what the opposing team's talking heads had to say, and they weren't homers. They were duly impressed by Morris, Nash and Hill, and concluded that the Suns can be a decent team this year. Guess that's what happens when you beat a team up the way the Suns have beaten the Warriors up.
- What is Morris' ceiling? His athleticism isn't top end but he's a smart, savvy, tough player with a lot of skills, especially for a rookie. On media day, he came across as a bit cocky, but it's looking so far like he has plenty of reason for confidence.
- The Suns bench put up 43 points today. Yes, 16 were from Morris, but Brown had 10, Hakim Warrick had 8 and Ronnie Price scored 7 points to go with 4 assists. Is the Suns bench going to be a strength? At the very least it looks like it won't be a disaster.
- I've been a big critic of Monta Ellis, but he was undoubtedly the Warriors best player today. He and Curry don't seem to fit well together, although the Warriors have said they're committed to trying to make it work for the foreseeable future. Eventually, one of the two figures to be traded.